When I spoke with Krunoslav Sontacchi of his newest wine creation, proudly named – Superslav, I almost received an instruction booklet. Don’t move the bottle, it must stay upright; don’t be surprised the residue at the bottom is ten centimetres tall; and this and that…
But Kruno, you forget I know Superslav since the times when you first coupaged thee seven varieties and left them on their own yeasts in that blue plastic container to the right of the main door to the winery?
“Oh, that was you, and I thought that legendary stirring of the residue was done by those two Americans!”
No, it was me, they stirred a year later!
“You know, around here everyone keeps stirring something so it is no wonder I cannot recall who did what.”
But, aren’t you overdoing it just a bit with the huge instructions on using Superslav?
“Believe me, I am not! This wine is so special, from various angles, and some lessons I had to learn the hard way. I will never get over the miserable fail of the first presentation of Superslav, which at the time didn’t even have a label, as all the bottles I brought to the wine festival in Zagreb – oxidized completely.”
Why give up on the name Malo Venje? Superslav was, in fact, to be a sort of homage to Ivan Enjingi, your wine idol and vineyard neighbour?
"Uncle Ivo is unique, the greatest ever, and I will never hide my admiration for his wine work, but also for many things I find in his wine philosophy. However, his Venje is – Venje, top of the tops, and it would be frivolous to use the same toponym for a wine which is succinctly different than the coupages of his late and elective harvests. I feel uncle Ivo would scorn this wine!”
Proud as he is every time when he announced a final version of his wine game, Krunoslav Sontacchi decided to enter 2018 with a completely new wine creation which he completely sold out to the Dubravkin Put restaurant in Zagreb. All – 50 bottles!
“This is not a wine for single use. For a while I have taken interest in such items and the very next Superslav will be in at least three times the quantity – 150 bottles!”
The name of this unusual coupage of seven white varieties brings forth at least three diametrically opposed associations. The first one, football, is thrown out at the start as unrealistic, as Krunoslav is not a real football fan and I doubt if he even knows that Superslav is the nickname the British media gave to Slaven Bilić, until recently the manager of West Ham United.
The word play with some super Tuscans or Super Istrians is also out of the question, as those terms are as a rule tied to an exclusive coupage which presents in the best way the possibilities of Tuscany and Istria in the production of – red wines. And Superslav is a coupage of white varieties.
The third, and not the least unexplainable, is that Superslav is a sort of pan Slavic idea of uniting the best in the region, as his coupage, besides Graševina, Traminer, Muller Thurgau, Rhine Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Yellow Muscat, also contains – Murava, the Serbian hybrid of Rhine Riesling and the domestic genotype with high resilience to fungal diseases and low temperatures. But, this interpretation is also out, as it would be tough to find a more apolitical person than Krunoslav Sontacchi.
Altogether, Superslav, a 90 day macerated coupage of seven white varieties, is a completely organic product where sulphur is at the lowest necessary level (for the wine not to oxidise before it reaches Zagreb!), can be seen only as Krunoslav’s sweet little provocation which, in a certain manner, confronts the idea represented by his father, the creator of Kitokret (referring to the rise of the male genitalia), the most famous name from their cellar.
“If I was asked, the wine would have been named – Picokret! But, Krunoslav doesn’t get that and he will never make a great winemaker,” says his father Hrvoje.
When I heard of the final bottling of Superslav, I immediately rushed to Kutjevo to get “my” bottle. As I did not want to find myself in the situation of several years ago, when Krunoslav’s great coupage of Traminer and Rhine Riesling, with a working title Malo Venje and produced in 150 litres, was sold in his bar on Graševina Square for 4 kuna per decilitre! And then he joked that some of the regulars complained it lacks a bit of acidity for a good mix with mineral water! Something to kill a man over…
Those in the know claim Krunoslav Sontacchi is the greatest prospect of the Croatian wine scene. In any case, he is the greatest wine fanatic, but also the only one who can boast of his dog Spačko living in a wine barrel! Spačko, the endlessly likeable basset, is so cared for that his dimensions will soon prevent him from being “barriqued” and will need a larger barrel to sleep in. Krunoslav may accommodate hm in the giant “bottle” in the winery courtyard! Several years ago, Krunoslav, his brother Antun and their father Hrvoje built a stone-padded “bottle” of ten thousand litre capacity. The bottle is not meant to store wine, but as a smokehouse to dry kulen sausages, with a side space for a barbecue. An ideal new home for Spačko!
Talking about Krunoslav Sontacchi is impossible without at least some humour. How else do we approach a winemaker whose most famous wine is named – Kitokret? The humorous name has been used for decades in Kutjevo for the Portugieser variety, alluding to potency.
The tops of the first labels of this wine, presenting the sexual act of Đakovo Lipizzaners, was the title “wine medicine,” and below the photograph it stated “one glass for medicine, two glasses for kitokret!”
Now, with the name Kitokret patented, Krunoslav and Antun, who runs the marketing, decided to make the production of their “aphrodisiacs” more serious, at least visually. They had to remove the “wine medicine” part, they couldn’t use a geographical origin in front of the Kitokret name, and the photograph of a horse climbing a mare was turned into a stylised artistic rendition.
The first public presentation of Kitokret beyond Kutjevo was at the first Croatian erotica fair in Zagreb. They say there was not enough wine for all those who wanted to taste it, just like they hope it would be. And Krunoslav and Antun cannot fail to brag of Stjepan Mesić starting his first presidential campaign in the Sontacchi winery cellar.
“He began his presidential race as a complete outsider. But he began it by drinking our Kitokret and after that his rating sharply rose. We had to send him during the campaign cartons of Kitokret several times a week. And he never forgot that. Thus he decided to begin his second campaign in our wine cellar again,” boasts Antun Sontacchi.
Mesić’s election victory celebrations in the Journalists’ Home in Zagreb had an additional dimension for Antun and Krunoslav, as they learned their great grandfather supplied the local bar with his wines between the two world wars.
“Maybe the label makes us seems frivolous, but believe me, Kitokret is a very serious wine. Although in the beginning we made it as a coupage of Portugieser and Cabernet Franc, Kitokret is lately almost completely a Cabernet Franc, the superior kind,” says Krunoslav.
The Sontacchi family is also special in the Golden Valley by, what is unusual for the Graševina empire they stem from, insisting on the dominance of red varieties compared to an almost symbolic percentage of Graševina and Rizvanac. Their Pinot Noir has a cult status among the lovers of that variety in Croatia, at least those who cease staring at the Kitokret label and begin enjoying their wines more seriously.
I must admit it also took me some time to get over the visual stimulus of Kitokret and realise that Krunoslav makes a fantastic Graševina. As well as their boasting with Pinot Noir is not unfounded.
Translated from Wine Stories.